22 August, 2009

Festival Blogger review - Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia da Dansa - 21/8/09

Image: Gelabert Azzopardi - Conquassabit. Photo: R.Ribas

Even for those who have limited knowledge on the subject of contemporary dance, it’s easy to spot something special. Gelabert Azzopardi, the dance company formed and directed by dancer and choreographer Cesc Gelabert and choreographer and teacher Lydia Azzopardi, is based in Barcelona, and seems to have found its own unique niche due to its refreshing juxtapositions and easily recognised style.

This Festival performance involves two quite differing pieces: Sense Fi and Conquassabit. The first of these, Sense Fi, embraces simplicity, with a dark background and in the first scene a gigantic moon-like orb of light that moves across the stage. The immediately obvious element to Gelabert Azzopardi’s choreography is the sheer physical demand, with many strenuous balances and leaps. However the bronzed, incredibly fit dancers show not a hint of fatigue as they move around the stage barefoot, with strange movements that appear fluid yet rigid and at times almost awkward.

A contrast is established in this first movement between moments of human intimacy and emotion and the more detached, trance-like group dances. Strange, occasionally uneasy percussion-based music (by contemporary composer Pascal Comelade) trigger changes in the mood and speed of the dancers, passing through moments of Zen-like calm and serenity to those of energy and passion. Figures constantly pass seamlessly on and offstage, with Cesc Gelabert frequently featuring as the main dancer and dancing many solos. Gelabert shows no signs of toiling at his 56 years of age, instead providing the audience with intriguingly choreographed interludes and wonderful expression.

Also noticeable is the Spanish influence that seems to arise in frequent use of the hips, almost salsa style, adding warmth and closeness between dancers. Scenes conveying love and pain feature subtly within the more human passages, portrayed beautifully through a fragile and graceful technique in both males and females – and the great skill of each individual is not sidetracked by complicated costume design or background, leaving the talent on the surface for the audience to appreciate.

The second piece of the performance, Conquassabit, retains these particular styles and quirks, but sets them on a more traditional musical background, reinstating the Gelabert Azzopardi’s love of juxtaposition. Surprisingly, the contemporary, radical style seems to lend itself perfectly to Handel’s Dixit Dominus, one of the Baroque composer’s Italian works. Cesc Gelabert once again takes frequent solo roles, involving different characters and a stricter finish to the dances, which are timed perfectly to the music. The choreography here appears more experimental in these solos with more graphic and visually surprising images, but still with simple costumes and no props beside a large expanse of silver cloth hanging loosely from the ceiling and providing a stunning backdrop for some truly incredible dancing. Ballet seems to have more of an influence in this movement, yet still with a Latin American trace, and individual solos allow each dancer to demonstrate their ability and precision.

The audience’s obvious enjoyment of these pieces lied in the commitment and personality that each dancer brings to the stage. The simple, innovative style of Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa seems to exude a quiet confidence and quality, and reintroduces the joy and visual dynamic of contemporary dance.
Reviewer: Kyna Bowers

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